Remember when Disney was making classic animated movies? It seems to me a long time ago. In my opinion, the last good Disney animated movie was “Zootopia”, and the last good Pixar movie was “Coco”. Now it seems like Disney doesn’t think about or care about the most important aspect of any of their movies, which is the story.
Jaeger Clyde (Dennis Quaid) is an intrepid explorer who leads a team on an expedition to find life beyond their land of Avallonia. He’s accompanied by his less daring son, a researcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), who accidentally stumbles upon an energy-producing plant he calls Pando. Jaeger wants to move on, but Searcher finds it more important to go home in order to use this new energy source to power and advance technology for their entire village. Years later, Avallonia has become a small utopia thanks to Pando’s discovery. One day, Searcher discovers that something is infecting and killing Pando, and if nothing is done to stop the infection, Pando may become extinct. The researcher embarks on a new expedition below the surface to find the root of the problem. He is joined by his wife, Meridian (Gabriel Union), son, Ethan (Jabuki Young-White), and a crew of explorers. They must encounter a strange new world in order to prevent a life-shattering catastrophe.
I will say Strange World was more fun than Lightyear, but that’s not saying much either. I can tell this movie is going to be a hard sell just from the trailers that have been released. It’s just another regular Disney movie. At most, there were ten people at my presentation of “Strange World” and there was no enthusiasm. It’s great that Weird World is such a weird world, but it also needs to be a beautiful, and most importantly, interesting world so audiences don’t get bored. The designs aren’t very interesting, and everything looks very similar. There is an abundance of pink and orange in this world. The creatures are either of a plasma or squid design and, again, lack any kind of magic. One of the main characters, Splat, is just a walking blue slime. I’ll give Disney credit for letting this creature express itself through pantomime rather than giving it a famously annoying voice to communicate with other characters.
There are a lot of messages in this movie. The main message is to preserve the environment, and the other message is to deal with parents and children. Both fathers in this movie plan for their children’s future without giving them any choice. It is the mutual arguments that lead to the final acceptance of their children and their dreams. Strange World also introduces the first openly gay main character in a Disney animated film.
As far as Ethan’s sexuality is handled, it’s refreshing to see that Ethan never has to struggle or worry about acceptance from his family or community. It is also important to note that Ethan’s personality is not defined by his sexuality, but by who he is as an individual and what he dreams of achieving. Ethan is not perfect, unlike the other characters in the movie. Sometimes he fails, but he never gives up and keeps trying. Because of this aspect, most people will be able to relate to Ethan, and he becomes the most popular character in the movie.
Strange World does a good job of messaging about conservation and acceptance, but the story should always come first. Focusing on writing a compelling story should always be Disney’s main goal. If Disney wants to include messages or perspectives on society in its films, do so later, but don’t overdo it, and never preach to your audience. Finally, it must leave the audience amused. Let’s hope Disney starts entertaining us more from now on.
I give Strange World a 6/10.
Editor’s note: This article contains the opinions of author Joe Hogarty. These opinions may or may not coincide with those of WDWNT LLC, Tom Corless, or anyone else on this planet. Feel free to express your thoughts in the comments section below.